Re-classifying the Applications for Wearables in the Enterprise, Part I

Since wearables are still in their infancy – in a market sense, from a hardware and app point of view, as well as in terms of enterprise adoption of the technology – the discussion around wearables is also still maturing. We have several objectives as educators (and community developers) in the enterprise wearables space: to sift through all the wearable tech news, finding the most relevant articles for our followers to consume; to bring to light every inspiring use case we can find; and to spark conversation around the real potential and challenges for wearables in business and industry. In addition, we aim to provide some structure – a framework, if you will – to the dialogue. How do we talk about wearables in the workplace? How do we begin to categorize the use cases, the number of which is fast increasing?

In the past, we identified three categories of applications for wearable technology in the enterprise:

  • Behind-the-scenes
  • Employee-facing, and
  • Customer-facing.

While these classifications still hold, we have decided to revisit the topic and expand upon our original categorizations, as new use cases and imagined enterprise applications for wearables come to light every day.

Part I: Behind-the-scenes Applications 

Behind the scenes, we have back-end or operational applications, which might also be understood as employee-assisting applications. In these cases, employees utilize wearable devices to do their jobs better, faster, and safer, thereby improving the business’ operations. Examples include:

  • See-what-I-see collaboration and guidance in the field as well as across distances via smart glasses and augmented reality: This see-what-I-see interaction might be between…
    • Two colleagues or professionals working on the same project in different locations (ex. an architect or designer and a building contractor; a retail manager and a sales floor employee assembling a visual display)
    • An office-based veteran technician and a less experienced field employee requiring assistance or on-the-job training (ex. an experienced electrical engineer coaching a novice worker through a service call)
    • An enterprise worker and a remote customer requesting a service (ex. an end user troubleshooting a complex equipment issue with the manufacturer’s support person)
  • Hands-free guidance, instruction, and access to information while in the field: Forget carrying around thick equipment manuals and checking off paper task lists in a cumbersome and time-consuming fashion. Pertinent task-based information and reference material can be stored on and conveyed to workers via wearable devices like smart glasses and smartwatches. Field workers can view manuals, receive instructions, access customer data and other corporate information—all before their eyes, and without having to divert their attention (or hands) away from the job.
  • Hands-free photo and video documentation: An on-duty police officer sporting a body camera; a construction foreman documenting areas of damage and repair during a walk-through of a building; a claims adjuster recording an incident in the field … The relatively effortless ability to take photos and record audio and video via wearable technology leads to a variety of use cases. A field worker just starting out, for instance, can both receive guidance from a remote supervisor while on the job and record this collaboration for later reference and training material. And live streaming opens up even more possibilities, including streaming surgical operations from the O.R. for foreign colleagues and medical students to observe and learn from. Essentially, the recording feature of smart glasses provides a second set of eyes – in real-time – for the lone worker (whether a doctor, first responder, oil rig worker), and also creates a record (of photo, audio and video data) that can be exploited to a variety of ends after the job is finished.
  • Virtual job training: Augmented reality glasses can improve worker productivity by feeding information and facilitating virtual coaching. Oftentimes, this accomplishes on-the-job training. In addition, virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift can be employed by enterprise organizations to simulate workplace scenarios as part of highly immersive job training programs (think NASA).

Stay tuned for Part II of this mini series, in which we will discuss the second category of applications for wearables in business: Employee-facing.


About EWTS East:

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit East taking place June 16-17, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia is the second in BrainXchange’s line of exclusive enterprise wearable tech conferences. Entirely focused on the use of wearable technology in the business and industrial enterprise, EWTS East brings together the top companies and foremost experts in the space to examine the opportunities for and challenges of wearables in the workplace. Consisting of all new speakers, all new case studies, and the most up-to-date, best-practice user advice, the event is not one to be missed.

Join the Enterprise Wearable Technology Community (LinkedIn Group)

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  1. […] been re-classifying the different application areas for wearable technology in enterprise. In Part 1, we looked at some behind-the-scenes or operational applications, otherwise referred to […]

  2. […] Re-classifying the Applications for Wearables in the Enterprise, Part I March 5, 2016 […]

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